You might well have seen designer Ann Newton Spooner’s work.
She has worked on popular Charlotte showhouses over the past couple of decades, especially gaily decorated holiday homes. She’s long been a leader in the Interior Design Society and did a stint as national president.
She enjoys a reputation for being focused, organized, not easily flustered.
She also is renovating her own kitchen.
So, how is it going? “With as much frustration as the rest of you would have,” she said with a laugh.
I thought it would be enlightening – and fun – to see how someone with her experience handled a major project at her own home.
She’s not expanding the kitchen in the 1950s split level near SouthPark – there’s no major engineering – but workers did remove everything down to the studs.
When I checked in with her last week, the new drywall was up and the base cabinets had been installed. She was fretting over a vent hood, worried that installing it might entail some special headaches. In any kitchen project, it’s crucial that framers, electricians, cabinet makers and other craftsmen have all the exact specifications.
“It’s a Vent-A-Hood…Very quiet,” she said. “But everybody needs to know exactly what you’re ordering.”
There’s her first bit of advice: Communication is crucial.
We’ll revisit her kitchen when the project is complete. Meanwhile, here are some other lessons so far:
Plan carefully and take clear notes. “I’m the world’s biggest fan of making a detailed list,” she said.
Early planning and clear vision will help as you request bids. Contractors can’t read your mind. They need to know the full scope of the job to bid accurately. “When you’re interviewing (contractors and vendors), hand them a copy of your list,” she said.
She chose Josh Canter of Canter Jennings to renovate her kitchen. She liked the contractor’s work, and he was able to do the project in a timely manner. Also, she said, he has a reputation for working well with building inspectors.
There’s a step that might slip past the rest of us.
When you contact the previous clients of any contractor you’re considering, be sure to ask about any inspection issues. Were there inspection problems or delays? Some are inevitable because there are always – always – unforeseen hitches in remodeling, but too many cause real headaches and delays for everybody.
With no kitchen, Spooner has been preparing meals in the laundry room. “I’m cooking in an electric frying pan,” she said with another laugh. “It’s sitting on top of a microwave I bought at a thrift store.”
There’s a final tip: Amid the chaos and drywall dust, hang on to your sense of humor. You’ll need it.